The search for a screening or diagnostic marker in pancreatic cancer (ductal adenocarcinoma of the pancreas) is paramount. If the disease could be found earlier, it is likely that serious inroads could be made into improved survival advantage for patients.
Wang and associates at Fudan University in Shanghai, China published an intriguing article in April’s edition of the Journal of Cancer Prevention Research which investigated microRNA patterns in the peripheral mononuclear blood cells of healthy patients, those with benign pancreatic disease, and those with pancreatic cancer. They found that miR-27a-3p levels in these cells could differentiate patients with benign pancreatic disease from those with pancreatic cancer.
When the researchers added CA19-9 levels to those of miR-27a-3p, they found that the accuracy of this putative diagnostic test increased to a very satisfactory sensitivity of 85.3% with a specificity of 81.6%.
A very interesting aspect of the study is that this was found in peripheral blood cells – thus giving easy access through a simple blood draw to diagnostic results.
These are early days for the role of MicroRNA in the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, but the results of this intriguing study should serve to increase additional research and confirmatory study.
Dale O’Brien, MD